The 3 Layers That Define Cloud Computing

Sam Bloedow

Uncover the Capabilities of Cloud Technology

Defining cloud computing as those services that are available through a web interface only scratches the surface. Cloud computing entails the delivery of a variety of computing services over the internet. This can be achieved in a number of ways that we’ll outline here. There are three layers of cloud computing services to cover:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Digging into the three cloud computing service layers will help uncover the ways in which these technologies can benefit your company. Utilize scalable cloud technology to be more agile in how you respond to changing customer needs or market opportunities.

The following will expand your definition of cloud service layers and distinguish between IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS.

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Software as a Service (SaaS)

SaaS is the layer of the cloud that you’re likely most familiar with. If you go to a web page and login to access a tool or service, you are using SaaS.

Some SaaS offerings are free, or at least free for a baseline set of services. Businesses utilize SaaS on a subscription basis for multiple functions from HR, accounting and payroll, to sales, marketing and project management. While the core functionality of the application is hosted on the provider’s servers, there are some apps that require you to download software to your own PC or device. This extends the app’s capabilities in other ways such as synchronizing with multiple devices.

The benefits of SaaS include easy entry and startup. Most apps allow you to add or subtract users as needed so that you only pay for what you use. The provider takes care of all software upgrades, support and uptime. Many SaaS industry applications can be integrated with one another to customize their use. For example: your marketing application could integrate with your prospect database, or your procurement application could integrate with your ERP software.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

If you aren’t a software programmer or web developer, you might not think that you’ll ever need PaaS. Perhaps the most overlooked of cloud computing service layers, PaaS is the best option to address your business’ unique requirements.

PaaS is where you can develop customized software - for example app construction and testing. You might use PaaS if you need to customize your industry-specific business application. Build and test it in the cloud before making it live to your company.

You can also test out a software update in a PaaS environment. This is beneficial if you’re concerned how the update will affect your processes or if you have multiple customizations that could put other systems at risk.

If your company is considering taking your business applications to the cloud, a PaaS may be your best option to build, test and launch it.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

We define IaaS as a computing service that allows you to access the physical components of your infrastructure – hardware, software, storage and network workings –remotely via the internet. You no longer need to purchase or maintain the hardware that would normally provide these services. Your infrastructure cloud layer makes them fully remote.

Your IaaS provider handles system maintenance, software updates, backup and security so you don’t have to maintain that equipment. IaaS is good for companies that need to scale up or down quickly, or that experience sudden changes in capacity. Subscriptions and pay-as-you-go arrangements eliminate capital expenses of investing in hardware.

These layers of cloud architecture sometimes overlap. PaaS includes the infrastructure that goes with the platform. A well-managed cloud program leverages these three components of cloud computing to run your business safely and more efficiently.

Cloud Computing FAQ

When did cloud computing start?

The first recorded use of the term “cloud computing” is from 1996 when a group of Compaq computer execs were planning the future of their internet business. Cloud services began launching in the late 1990s but didn’t go mainstream until the mid 2000s.  

What are the main types of cloud services?

 Depending how you set up your cloud architecture layers, the possibilities are nearly limitless. The most common types of cloud services include data storage, networks, servers, software and analytics.

What are the benefits of cloud computing?

Cloud computing allows your business to scale without investing in physical hardware and personal servers. It is a safe, reliable and cost effective way to manage your business’ technology. Because cloud technology is regularly updated, you’ll always experience the best speed and performance available.

What are the security risks of cloud computing?

Data loss, malware, hacker attacks and revenue loss are all risks that come with using the cloud. While clouds are typically more secure than physical hardware, they do require careful attention when setting up and constant monitoring after. 

When is Cloud the right choice?

The advantages of cloud computing will depend on your company’s unique goals and situation. The choice to go to the cloud should be part of a business discussion, not just a technology discussion. You’ll want to consider the future of cloud computing within your company and develop a comprehensive plan for how to best utilize the vast applications available.

Expert Cloud Advice and Support

Most companies need help to strategically align technology with their business goals. Thriveon offers ongoing IT strategy and consulting with outsourced IT services. We can help you navigate the three layers of cloud computing, understand the pros and cons of this technology and mitigate the risks. Schedule a meeting today to get your questions answered and to start building a secure network that serves your business needs.

Download our ebook to see what good IT support looks like. 

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photo credit: Fluffy Cloud via photopin (license)


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